5 Minute Project Can Save You 3,000 Gallons in Water

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I am all about saving a dollar and typically almost every renovation I do in my home involves energy savings, comfort or convenience. In the past I did an article on how you can save up to 12,000 Gallons of water every year and that leads to my latest water saving article.

Where as the last article was not a DIY project this one is definitely something anyone can do and best of all you can do it in under 5minutes.

What is the spectacular plan I put into implementation to save 3,000 gallons of water? I installed a low flow shower heard in my master bathroom.

I have had a low flow shower head sitting in my bedroom dresser for the better part of  a year waiting to be installed and it was time to put it to work finally. I decided today to not only install the shower head but to also do the math and figure out how much money this 5 minute upgrade will save me.

My original shower head was a Moen 2.5GPM shower head. My new shower head is once again a MOEN all be it of much cheaper construction and ‘Made in China’ but it has a flow rate of 1.5GPM.

In order to figure out how much water I am going to save and how much money that will translate into we need to know two things. How much I pay for my water and how long my showers are.

The water bill part I already calculated for a previous article. The total water bill including the ‘Basic Water Charge’ and the ‘Basic Treatment Charge’ is $121.56 which means my cost per gallon of water is $0.0159 cents.

Now I just need to know how long me and my wife shower for. I could always time her to find out how long she is in the shower but that would no doubt get me into endless trouble. So instead we are going to use a common statistic from HomeWaterWorks.org

In an average home, showers are typically the third largest water use after toilets and clothes washers. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons (65.1 liters) and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm) (7.9 lpm).

Lets quickly do some math on this. With my old shower head the formula looks like so;

2.5GPM x 8.2 minutes = 20.5 gallons per shower * .0159 cents per gallon = 0.32595

So basically every shower that I take right now costs me 33 cents. Add my wife to the equation and between the two of us it costs 66 cents on average combined per day. Multiply that out by 7 days a week and you get $4.62 a week. Multiply that out by a year and you get $120.45 cents

So on average the wife and I cost $240.90 a year to maintain our hygiene with the old shower head. Lets see what that looks like now with the new shower head.

1.5 x 8.2 = 12.3 gallons per show * .0159 cents per gallon = 0.19557 cents per shower.

So now my cost per shower is down to 20 cents. Combine me and my wife and its 40 cents. Multiply that out over an entire year and its $146.00 a year in showering costs.

This 5 minute project to install a MOEN shower head that the city gave to me for free as part of a green initiative will save me up to $94.00 a year and on top of that it will save 2,993 gallons of water every year making me such a green fellow.

I have already figured out a away to double my savings and cut my water bill in half again. I just have to convince my wife that we should start showering together.

If you are looking for other green ideas read my article Saving $1,000 One Bulb at a time

Photo via

ClimateMaster iGate Looks to Revolutionize Geothermal

ClimateMaster has always been a leader in manufacturing geothermal heat pumps and now they are looking to significantly up their game with the release of the ClimateMaster iGate Technology.

iGate does not come as a huge shock to me because some time ago ClimateMaster partnered with ecobee the jedi knight of smart thermostats and everyone knew something ‘neat’ would come from that.

ClimateMaster iGate is the first step it seems in a healthy relationship between ecobee and ClimateMaster.  In an official release ClimateMaster reveals some fascinating information on the new iGate system;

“The online portal notably streamlines dealers’ customer support and equipment servicing, especially in allowing them to monitor and troubleshoot a unit from the comfort of their office or home,” Hiremath said.  “In many cases, diagnostics and adjustments through the online portal can eliminate jobsite visits, particularly in flagging system issues before they become larger problems.

None of that is really new but it’s still neat to see ClimateMaster capitalize on the value of ecobee’s homeIQ and dashboard.

ClimateMaster iGate Connect online portal - via ClimaterMaster.com
ClimateMaster iGate Connect online portal – via ClimaterMaster.com

Now before you go thinking that all ClimateMaster is doing is throwing their name on another cool product like so many manufacturer’s do you will want to read this next bit which is really impressive;

Featuring iGate Connect™ technology, the new Trilogy 45 Q-Mode is also the first residential geothermal heat pump system to provide dealers with complete diagnostics and operating data via any Wi-Fi enabled device over the internet.  Through an online portal, dealers can access built-in measurement of all critical system operations and conditions at the past 5-faults.  More than 25 unit settings can be configured from the dealer portal, including air-flows and range of unit capacity.

What does this mean? This means that contractors can not only see reporting data on the internet they can actually adjust settings on the equipment remotely.

One word.. wow!

That is going to be a huge timesaver on commissioning equipment.

The hardware on the new iGate controls, via ClimateMaster.com
The hardware on the new iGate controls, via ClimateMaster.com

As you can see from the drawing above ClimateMaster has taken the ecobee technology and modified it to act as a Gateway between their hardware and the online ClimateMaster Dealer portal. Well done!

Should be interesting to see where this goes as other geothermal heat pump manufacturers up their game.

Screenshots via ClimateMaster official brochure

ecobee3 Now For Sale at APPLE

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ecobee has seen the light and for them it is retail sales. Yesterday on LinkedIn they announced that the ecobee3 product is now available for purchase in apple stores and online at apple.com. This is not overly shocking given that ecobee started selling products direct on their website earlier this year.

This is a big move for ecobee whom in the past have sold their products through traditional wholesale HVAC distribution and contractors. They are clearly doing this in response to the huge success that NEST had going consumer direct and eventually selling to Google for the 1 Gazillion Dollars.

Did you hear the news? Our new ecobee3 smart thermostat is now in Apple stores and on apple.com Oh, and we’re now at the top of the Trending Now page on apple.com We’re pretty excited, – ecobee

In the end the move to sell ecobee direct to consumers will be a win for ecobee on the retail front but the question stands will wholesale distribution and HVAC contractors continue to support the product?

More importantly does ecobee really need HVAC distribution to find new success with the ecobee 3? I am highly biased but even I have to concede that ecobee should have a good go in retail sales if they are ready and willing to spend the money to build their brand.

That said I also think that ecobee has a sweet spot with wholesale HVAC distribution and even if it’s not quite where they want it abandoning it outright could be an opening for other companies.

Time will tell if selling on Apple brings better success then through contractors. Either way its a great company with great product and great people.

4 Ways ecobee Makes HVAC Better

I am a fanboy of ecobee and have been for many years. They have continued to innovate with new product but my passion for their product remains for a few core reasons and it’s not the device on the wall as much as the design and the software behind  it.

Not to mention the people who make up ecobee.

Stuart Lombard their founder has proven that having customers at the table is good for business and product development. Gus Provias who leads their inside technical team proves that bending over backwards to help the customer is never wrong and Jason MacKinnon the Sales Manager for Canada is single-handedly trying to bring back the man purse. ( Only joking he leads a dream team sales group ).

I have never been a fan of thermostats that are all sizzle and no substance and for me the ecobee Smart thermostat is near perfection when it comes to smart thermostats. Great team and great product has made the ‘ecobee Smart’ model the must buy thermostat for nerds and regular homeowners alike.

It is the thermostat I use in my own home and here are just a few reasons why.

Weather

I will never forget when the sales team showed me the ecobee for the first time and they talked up the ‘weather’ feature. My immediate reaction was ‘really? you think weather on a thermostat is a game changer?’. Wow did I eat my words. The most popular comment from consumers ( my wife and older son included ) is how awesome it is to know the weeks weather forecast without looking it up.

Do not be fooled into thinking the weather on your thermostat is a gimmick either. The weather data which is collected and logged for over a year is also used as part of the heating/cooling algorithm. Which thermostat is smarter? One that knows it is going to snow or one that doesn’t?. Weather is easily one of the greatest ecobee Smart features.

Idiot Proof Setup

How many times have you been presented with a new thermostat and struggled with how to wire it or program it? In our office the way I proved how simple it was to install was to hand it to one of our Accounting team ( who doesn’t own a thermostat at all ) and asked her to program it. Despite her dismay at the initial request she did it no problem, first try.

Idiot proof setup means that the thermostat is more likely to be used properly and although most contractors are not going to dump it on their customers to program it at least you know if they want to change a setting or two you don’t need a Masters in Engineering to figure it out.

It is Not Just a Thermostat

I am a nerd and just about every piece of hardware that comes across my desk I try to hack it. From internet enabling my radiant in floor system to hacking a WaterFurnace board to send email alerts if it goes offline. I just cant help myself it’s because I have spent my entire adult life writing code for industry leading companies.

The beauty of the ecobee smart thermostat is it is not just a thermostat. It has the ability for you to do all kinds of cool things with it. You can hookup a plethora of sensors including temperature, humidity, co2, dry contacts and zigbee. What does this mean? It means my thermostat can monitor my radiant infloor system, give me real-time power consumption of my home and also turn receptacle plugs on and off.

What other thermostat can do that without any hacking or modification?

HomeIQ

HomeIQ is a pretty solid name for ecobee’s DataRythm technology which collects thousands of data points including HVAC equipment type and historical run-times, weather, and the ongoing energy performance of your home to make intelligent, unique and personalized heating and cooling decisions for you.

Really I could have just done a list with one item HomeIQ on it but that wouldn’t be a list now would it? The reason that the ecobee smart thermostat can boast significant heating and cooling savings is summed up with one word ‘HomeIQ’.

I am always looking for new product and to date I have yet to find a thermostat that wows me like the ecobee Smart Thermostat. If you think you know of a product I should be looking at drop me a line because I want to hear from you. If you are in the market for  a smart thermostat pickup an ecobee Smart Thermostat.

Be clear in this article I am talking about a specific model the ‘Smart’. Not the ecobee3 or the SI. All are great products but the Smart is the one that rules them all!

ecobee smart thermostat

 

ecobee3 Room Sensors #FAIL

The ecobee 3 Smart Thermostat the coolest thermostat since the last cool thermostat? via ecobee.com
The ecobee 3 Smart Thermostat the coolest thermostat since the last cool thermostat? via ecobee.com

The ecobee3 was launched with massive fan fare this year and since than it has drummed up positive press from just about every major tech blog.

Although the nerds just now figured out who ecobee is ecobee is the father of smart thermostats and their HomeIQ heating algorithm is the Mercedes Benz of heating / cooling algorithms which can mean significant energy savings.

The praise on ecobee for the new ecobee3 is well deserved but as cool as the ecobee3 is one feature in particular, the remote wireless sensors is being misunderstood.

My home has really hot spots and really cold spots and at times my upstairs bedroom is almost unlivable. Despite what online bloggers are saying the ecobee3 remote sensors will not properly solve this problem and even when they do it will be at a cost.

For those not familiar here is how the ecobee3 remote sensors work;

The ecobee3 smarter wi-fi thermostat and remote sensors measure temperatures in multiple locations to address hot and cold spots in the home and deliver comfort in the rooms that matter most.

In addition, working with its remote sensors, the ecobee3 recognizes which rooms are occupied and automatically adjusts the temperature based on the readings in those rooms.  If you have a change in schedule and you leave your home, the sensors will recognize this and prevent your heating and cooling systems from running unnecessarily when your home is empty. The more sensors you add, the smarter your ecobee3 becomes at delivering comfort where it matters and savings where it counts. [ via ecobee ]

If you were to install the sensors into various rooms in your home it will give you a great idea of the operative temperature in your home but if you have an incredibly cold / hot room these little sensors are not the solution.

Why is my Bedroom Cold in the winter hot in the summer?

In my own case my upstairs bedroom is freezing in the winter hot in the summer because the ductwork in my home is the punch line of a really bad joke.

My bedroom also has lots of glass which means significant infiltration in the summer and winter. Combine the two and you have a heating/cooling nightmare.

The possible fixes for my bedroom heating/cooling fiasco are;

  1. Install proper ductwork which requires me ripping out walls and ceilings which frankly is a non starter.
  2. Install a secondary heating system in the room like radiant floor heating or a JAGA hot water radiator
  3. Rip out the walls and upgrade my insulation and replace my windows.
  4. Zone my house. By zoning my home I can shut off the heating/cooling runs that feed my other rooms and push the heating and cooling into the rooms that need it. This one also requires ripping out the walls.
  5. Use a Smoke Pencil to locate and fix any window drafts in my bedroom

Wait why can’t the ecobee 3 sensors fix the cold room?

The challenge is that in theory they can. What makes it challenging is you have to understand what you are doing and what the ramifications can be.

If I put an ecobee3 remote sensor into my cold bedroom in the winter it is going to tell my ecobee3 to run longer to heat that room. The problem is the sensor can not change the fact I have horrible ductwork and minimal air flow in the room. What potentially happens is three things;

  1. The cold bedroom becomes more liveable thanks to my remote sensor which is a great thing.
  2. The rest of my house potentially gets over heated because the thermostat is trying to heat my bedroom and has no ability to stop other rooms with adequate ductwork from over heating.
  3. My Heating bill goes up.

Yes the ecobee3 can try to make rooms more comfortable but it has no dampers so while your ecobee3 remote sensor is telling the stat to crank out heat to a poorly ducted bedroom the rest of your home can potentially get overheated.

So How does the ecobee3 deliver comfort where it matters most?

The ecobee3 does not have a design flaw it comes down to people not understanding its use. Sometimes like in my house the thermostat gets installed in a ridiculous location beside a window on an outside wall in a room that we never go into.

For me putting an ecobee3 Remote Sensor into my living room and kitchen would actually improve the thermal comfort in my house because the ecobee is doing a temperature average across two common living spaces not an empty room that I do not use that may have the door closed or have adverse effects from cold/hot air penetrating the outside wall.

Final Thoughts on ecobee3 Remote Sensors.

They are a damn cool device that offer a great way for homeowners to make their homes more comfortable. This post is in no way saying the ecobee3 remote sensors are ‘no good’ or ‘dissing’ ecobee. I am a huge fan of ecobee, their founder is a class act and their team is one of the best in this industry. The ecobee3 Sensor #FAIL is not on ecobee it is on people trying to use them incorrectly.

The ecobee3 remote sensors enable you to improve the comfort in your home but they are not a replacement for zoning. If you have poorly insulated rooms, shoddy ductwork or an issue with your heating system putting a sensor in one of the impacted rooms may increase comfort in that room but understand how it could hamper comfort in other rooms and how that might look on your next gas/hydro bill.

The ecobee3 is fantastic and I encourage anyone looking for a smart thermostat to pick one up but recognize it is not a zoning system.

Running Radiant Infloor off Air Temperature Alone

I recently completed work on a radiant smart control that enables just about anyone to run their radiant in floor system from a smart phone but in doing so I have opened up a slew of ‘weekend warrior’ opportunities to test various theories that have been taught to me over the years by industry guru’s like Robert Bean and John Siegenthaler.

My recent foray into experimenting came innocently enough from a chat  I had recently with Robert Bean on Thermal Comfort. No sooner did we talk about how Air Temperature does not dictate thermal comfort my system in my living room captured an example of just that ( read more here ).

On Wednesday I got talking with hydronic’s champion Dean Newberry about using air sensing thermostats alone on radiant in floor and simply could not resist doing a test in my own home.

I am not a fan of air sensing thermostats alone for radiant systems because air temperature alone is not a proper measurement of thermal comfort. In my own home 68 degrees is perfectly comfortable with my floor sensor properly calibrated. Without the floor sensor my stat may still read 68 but the floor is cold and my family starts giving me that sideways look of ‘hey you told us this radiant floor heating is amazing’.

That is not to say that an air sensing thermostat can not run your system my argument is why you would do it when there is a much better option. Below is a few thousands data points from my radiant smart control with my system being controlled by air and floor temperature. The temperature deviates a few points of a degree but is otherwise incredibly stable.

air temperature
Air temperature on my radiant infloor heating system

As an experiment this weekend I disconnected my floor sensor to run the system off the air temperature alone and you can see that the results were noticeable.

Radiant Infloor Running with Air Sensing Thermostat

Normally where my system would only overshoot by a .5 degree I am now over shooting my temperature by as much as 3 degrees and it is happening frequently. Now imagine what if my thermostat was installed on an outside wall or in a drafty location? What would my floor temperature be? Likely it would be overly hot and uncomfortable before my air sensing thermostat noticed.

Lets look at a second example from a week ago. My thermostat was set for 72 it was 72 where the stat is but the floor temperature was cold. It was my wife who gave me that sideways look that brought it to my attention.

The graph below illustrates this point. My air sensing thermostat thought the floor was warm but it was not. The end of the graph is when I finally addressed the issue, my pump had stopped and my air sensing thermostat missed the memo.

raupanel temp

Floor Sensors can not only enhance the comfort in the room but avoid structural issues with hard wood. The Hardwood Flooring folks do not like when we put really hot water under a hardwood floor because they say it will ‘damage the wood’.

In my own home when the flooring sales person saw I was putting in radiant heating he declared ‘woah you can’t do radiant with hardwood’. I am sure he meant no harm but comments like that can hurt our industry. Contributing factor I am sure is the fact he had never even seen my RAUPanel heating sytem before. ( 28-32 BTU’s per square foot at 110 degree water )

dsc_0722

It is true you don’t want to run super hot water under some wood floors but its worth noting that it’s not the radiant system itself that can damage the wood its the effect that temperature has on the moisture content of wood. Robert Bean said it best when he said;

100% of all hardwood flooring complaints in buildings heated exclusively with forced air did not have radiant floor heating to blame.

As the water temperature gets hotter beneath the hardwood the wood in turn gets hotter and the moisture content goes down which can cause the wood to shrink. Nobody wants to take responsibility for this which is why a radiant floor sensor is a must have $25.00 addition to hydronic’s projects.

Not only can you prevent flooring issues being blamed on you by setting the max floor temperature to less than 85 but you can also ensure optimal thermal comfort and work to eliminate awkward complaints like ‘this radiant floor system is not working’.

So can you make a system run with an air sensing thermostat? My own weekend warrior experiment shows it can be done but running does not always equate to working properly. Without question a floor sensor can and will make a radiant infloor system more comfortable and can eliminate potential issues with over/under heating the space.

In my own home until I can convince my wife to let me install a globe style mean radiant temperature sensor in the middle of the room I am going to continue using a dual sensing radiant in floor PID thermostat.

Radiant Infloor Thermostat #FAIL: How Not to be Comfortable

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This weekend through a series of unfortunate events my radiant in floor system briefly went offline and the results play right into some recent comments on LinkedIn.

Robert Bean recently shared the DOE Building America findings that declared an air temperature of 70 +/- two degrees is a benchmark for thermal comfort. Quoting Robert;

…..would like to know how the researchers came to the conclusion that 70F +/-2F air temperature is a proxy for a thermal comfort band when the ASHRAE/ISO thermal comfort band defines it differently.

In my own home I am using a radiant smart control in combination with a standard dual sensing thermostat that controls my system which reports data to a cloud server every few seconds. This has enabled me to capture an anomaly in my radiant infloor heating system and share it.

The graph below shows the recent air temperature in my radiant zone and as you can see it is a very constant 72.01 degree fluctuating at most .5 of a degree. I meet the guidelines for the DOE Building America standards for thermal comfort.

air temperature

The issue the above graph does not show you is that during almost the entire time shown my radiant in-floor system was actually offline due to a pump issue..

The graphs below further demonstrate what happened. The first graph shows my cold supply / return water temperatures, the second graph shows my stable and constant air temperature. ( Note: The ‘spiking’ in air temperature is only because my smart control I built measures air temperature down to 2 decimals. The actual variation is less than .5 degrees. )

The last part of my graph shows system delta T and the BTU output flat lined since the system was offline. The very end of the graphs is where I got my tools out and fixed the problem.

radiant control

Moral of the story?

The factors that contribute to ‘thermal comfort’ are many and air temperature alone does not provide ‘thermal comfort’. Further more +/- 2 degrees as illustrated above is a very poor benchmark of thermal comfort.

The secondary message of this post is if you are controlling a radiant infloor system with an air sensing thermostat alone you are without question completely missing out on the true comfort and value that  a radiant system gives you.